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The Impact of Poverty and Access on Education: A Digital Divide

By Buhle Mlingwana |


Technology is a powerful tool that has revolutionized how we all learn. Today, digital learning has emerged as a necessary resource for students and schools all over the world. But for many, education, let alone online education, is an inaccessible right.

Educational inequality, the unequal distribution of academic resources, including school funding, qualified and experienced teachers, books, and technologies, is a real and prominent issue for marginalized groups worldwide. The lack of resources and, as a result, underperformance is deeply rooted in the legacy of racist oppression and marginalization that has left Black and Brown communities with poor experiences of education, where success is still dependent on their social class and background.


“[Access to] education is not a privilege; it is a right!”


COVID-19 Exposes a Digital Divide

The effects of inequality in education have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, where many schools and teachers face major gaps in their abilities to provide essential services, such as counseling and tools to learn from home, over and above developing human potential. Learning losses over the past year have been great for students with little to no access to devices, the internet, quiet study areas, and home and community resources.

Moreover, schools are finding that they need to address disparities in computer literacy for students and teachers unaccustomed to using computers regularly. Students are now having to adapt to learning management systems and other digital tools, while teachers need significant professional development to learn not just how to teach effectively online but also how to support students and parents at home.

Interventions by the Government


The digital divide in formal schooling is not a simple problem that can be overcome with technological support investments and goes beyond the provision of devices. Instead, interventions should be derived from within school and home differences that affect learning standards and support and student ability for independent learning given the economic and social backgrounds.

There needs to be a push for national policies that attempt to close the digital divide in education to attend to all of the abovementioned contributing factors to be successful. And guarantee equal and fair access to all pupils and students regardless of their social situations. Increasing access to education will not only improve the overall health and longevity of a society but grow economies and quite literally save the planet.

AUTHOR

Buhle Mlingwana

Learning Technologist at Construct